Neapolitan Presepio at St. Margaret’s Shrine

BRIDGEPORT— You will want to visit St. Margaret Shrine in Bridgeport after watching this short video on the “Presepio” or Nativity scene that is open to the public free of charge throughout the month of December.

St. Margaret Shrine is a beautiful place to pray and reflect any time of year, but it really comes alive in a special way during the Christmas Season. The Shrine is a hidden gem that invites prayer, reflection and reverence through its beautiful displays and devotional areas.

The Shrine’s Neapolitan “Presepio,” a beautiful nativity carved into a hillside cave, will transport the viewer to the town of Bethlehem where Jesus was born.

“Any person who goes to see a presepio anywhere in the world goes to see the source of our joy—Jesus Christ, our Lord,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, when he blessed the newly opened presepio during a 2015 visit.

A presepio is a Nativity scene with figures depicting everyday life in Naples during the 18th century, from milkmaids to bakers, cobblers to blacksmiths. Each figure, down to the freshly baked loaves of bread and the butcher’s trimmed meats hanging on a rail, is a finely crafted miniature work of art.

The original presepio was the Nativity crèche created by St. Francis of Assisi. It spread worldwide, but none became as elaborate as those from Naples. As many Italian families settles in the Bridgeport area and supported the Shrine, they brought that tradition with them.

The Nativity scene at St. Margaret’s Shrine as designed by artist Armando Palumbo. “Growing up in Italy during World War II wasn’t easy,” recalls Palumbo. “Since we didn’t have toys or many social activities to occupy our time, my brothers and I would go out into the fields during the summer and fashion figures from fresh farm clay for the Christmas Presepio. We baked the figures in the hot summer sun and when they dried, we’d paint them.”

The Palumbo family migrated to America after the war. “During my first visit to St. Margaret’s Shrine, I knew I wanted to be part of this holy place,” says Palumbo, who has worked on many shrine projects over the years. He designed and built the twenty-foot wrought iron sculpture of Jesus on the cross that stands above the building housing the presepio.

He received authorization in early 2012 to begin the project, which included major structural work to contend with water problems, replacing the roof, and preparing the entire building before work on the presepio itself could begin. “When you see how impressive this is, you realize how much work went into it,” said Deacon Faust, the Shrine’s administrator.

The Presepio will be open for viewing during the Christmas season: Open the Month of December:
Monday thru Friday 11 – 3; Saturday 3 – 6; Sunday 9 – 12:30 . For more info, call St. Margaret’s Shrine: 203.333.9627 or email